The stained glass community will gather in a confluence of energy, inspiration and excitement for Forging New Paths: The Stained Glass Association of America’s 2023 Conference, held at The Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo, New York, from Thursday, September 28 through Sunday, October 1, 2023. In addition to 25 workshops, five tours, auctions, art salons, art openings, the Vendor Showcase, the Mosaic Marathon, and major networking events – SGAA will hold its General Session.
Each year during General Session, SGAA brings together speakers from around the world to speak about restoration, conservation, public art, history, and technology in the field. It is not uncommon to have roundtables to tackle emerging issues or panels of experts to provide clarity on how industry elements are being tackled across the country. Speakers and lecturers are chosen by a panel of peers for both their content and enthusiasm. The expertise of historians, conservators, and contemporary practitioners come together in a unique way to celebrate the enormous diversity of the entire industry.
In recent years, additional efforts have been made to bring notable guests and speakers to the conferences that can speak to the partnerships glass work often requires, e.g. those in adaptive reuse, metalsmithing, masonry conservation, sacred places, fundraising, and public art. There has also been a great many collaborations within the larger glass arts community as it applies to architectural art glass – kilnforming, flameworking, lamination, etc – and it is always exciting to see how connections made at the annual conference push the boundaries of new work.
Classes & Workshops
Conferences offer a unique opportunity to learn both beginning and advanced techniques and are often geared toward the unique strengths of that year’s conference host. SGAA tailored its workshops to nearby facilities and studio resources that are unique to this year’s conference location. Says McElfresh: “We have been very fortunate to work with incredible teachers from all over the globe – leaders in the field who have generously donated time to share their knowledge with our members and attendees.”
The Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) is the largest nonprofit mosaic art organization in the world—a vibrant and ever-expanding group of more than 1,200 members, including mosaic artists at all levels, mosaic aficionados, collectors, materials suppliers, and art educators. SAMA has placed renewed emphasis on strengthening ties with other mosaic organizations around the globe to pursue common goals.
The Mosaic Marathon brings together members for a unique opportunity to create a mosaic in a cooperative, continuous, networking experience. The Mosaic Marathon creates a lasting piece of art that is donated to a local charity in SGAA’s host conference city. As a not-for-profit organization, this is an opportunity for SAMA to give back to the arts community and create a lasting reminder of its legacy and mission.
Tours & Field Sessions
The history and appreciation of stained glass is inseparable from both its setting as an architectural element and the very nature of the material itself. For craftsmen and artists in the field to gain exposure to the vast living museums of stained glass, they must visit stained glass all over the world whenever they can. “Installations all over the world are our museums, our laboratories, and our classrooms,” says McElfresh.
“Thus, when we come together as a group, we must take advantage of our travel and our companions to go and experience installations, to discuss them with our peers, and to investigate ongoing care and restoration concerns that affect us all. This is one of the most useful ways we can learn as a group.”
Nearly every SGAA conference includes at least one full day of site visits and installation tours. In addition, the organization has been known to schedule and participate in special travel opportunities both in the United States and abroad to experience as much stained glass as possible. The tours are almost always stand-alone events, which can be attended outside of General Session participation and are often open to the public.
Auction & Scholarships
At each conference, members have the opportunity to browse through tables laden with books, sample sets, vendor products, tools, and artwork from members. SGAA’s annual silent and live auction at the summer conference is a major source of funding for scholarship assistance. Donations directly fund scholarships for professional stained glass instruction all over the country and beyond.
On exhibition years, work is donated to SGAA’s live auction, which is an opportunity to collect autonomous work by any number of the group’s talented members.
On the Shoulders of Giants: Innovation in Stained Glass at The Buffalo History Museum, Portico Gallery, September 15, 2023 – January 14, 2024
This anniversary exhibition pays homage to skills honed over generations that have facilitated innovation in past and present-day Buffalo. Just as LaFarge and Tiffany pushed the boundaries of the medium in the 1880s, today’s community continues to move forward, fostering innovation and creativity.
This trifecta of exhibits brings together Buffalo’s unique history and legacy with future architectural endeavors. Conference attendees have the opportunity to experience how glass is a part of the city’s built environment, building momentum for the art of the future. Viewing opportunities include: The new Gundlach building at Buffalo AKG Art Museum and multiple new glass-related commissions being unveiled there this summer; Brilliance: The Stanford Lipsey Art Glass Collection at the Burchfield Penney Art Center; and On the Shoulders of Giants at the Buffalo History Museum.
States David Judson, Judson Studios: “The world of stained glass is constantly evolving with the advancements in technology. Despite being an ancient craft, new and innovative methods are being discovered every day. These advancements present exciting opportunities for the future of this beautiful medium. We are thrilled to witness the endless possibilities that lie ahead.”
Camaraderie, Networking & Celebration
Says McElfresh: “Year after year, SGAA builds on the shoulders of giants, sharing cumulative knowledge with one another. This magic is the result of providing space for the unplanned to occur: the intermingling of artist, craftsmen, business people and suppliers. They exchange ideas, have impromptu demonstrations, and socialize. It is the chemistry created by our shared passion for the glass material that keeps bringing us back together.”
She continues: “At our business meetings, we not only attend to the business of the day, we recognize those who have achieved professional recognition in the field. We seek to learn what challenges may face us next. We are just as eager to hear from emerging professionals as we are to hear from the recognized experts.” Each annual conference ends with an award banquet where SGAA celebrates Lifetime Achievements as well as up-and-coming voices.
The Stained Glass Association of America is one of our nation’s oldest trade associations. Now 120 years old, the organization is proud to produce one of the oldest continuously published art journals in the United States, in addition to providing over 1,500 professionals across the country including manufacturers, suppliers, and educators with programs, scholarships, accreditation, public education and services for stewards.
Says McElfresh: “SGAA is the advocate and ambassador for monumental stained glass art in the United States.”